Two Hikers Reported Missing Near Glacier Park’s Oldman Campground found – updated 10/21

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from NPS Glacier National Park October 16th:

Missing hikers Neal Peckens and Jason Hiser spent an additional five nights in the backcountry of Glacier National Park than they anticipated. The successful rescue of the hikers is credited to dedicated search and rescue personnel and Peckens and Hiser’s preparation and sense of situational awareness.

Glacier National Park Chief Ranger Mark Foust said, “We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this incident, and perhaps we all can learn from this experience and these two men.”

Foust said, “These hikers were prepared with appropriate equipment and they used their situational awareness skills to determine how to respond to the unexpected in the backcountry.” A standard recommendation for anyone that may be lost is to “STOP” and that is exactly what they did; Stop, Think, Observe and Plan.

Glacier National Park is identified as one of the most beautiful places on earth, and can also be one of the most unforgiving places. Changing weather, steep/difficult terrain, and wildlife all contribute to the unique environment of the park. Without planning and awareness of an individual’s surroundings, accidents can happen. Visitors are strongly encouraged to plan for and enjoy all that Glacier National Park has to offer. This includes learning about the area you plan to visit, especially when traveling in the backcountry, and having the items you may need if the situation changes.

“We are fortunate to have some very experienced and talented staff at Glacier National Park, as well as with our cooperators,” said Foust. Much appreciation goes to Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, Flathead County Search and Rescue, North Valley Search and Rescue, Flathead Emergency Aviation Resources, US Border Patrol and the pilots at Minuteman Aviation for their assistance.

According to park rangers, Peckens and Hiser were planning to hike from the North Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine and camp at the Oldman Backcountry Campground on Tuesday, October 9. After spending the night in a backcountry campground as planned, they continued on their 17-mile hike on the east side of the park. They encountered winter conditions, including snow on the trail and very high gusts of winds as they hiked a section of trail on a ridge along the Continental Divide.

One of the hikers slipped and fell approximately 100 feet down a steep area. The hikers tried to parallel their hike for a bit, one above and one below. They determined the best approach would be for both hikers to be together, to go down the mountain and perhaps try another route back up.

They had a quality map of the area and when looking at it, extreme wind gusts blew it out of their hands. They continued down the mountain side and spent Wednesday evening in the Nyack Lakes area. They set up camp, including a fire.

On Thursday they started to hike back up the mountain by another route hoping to get back in the direction that they began. Weather conditions and mountainous terrain were challenging. They put considerable thought into what their best options would be. They decided to travel back down the wet and slippery terrain and wait for a break in the weather. The break in the weather did not come and they camped in this spot, near the headwaters of the Nyack Drainage at approximately 6,000 feet for the next four nights. They rationed their food, collected fire wood and materials to create a fire and smoke, turned their cell phones on during the day, displayed their space blanket for possible reflection during the day and used it to stay warn at night, and created a SOS message with logs.

On Monday, October 15, approximately 3 p.m. (MST) two Glacier National Park employees were searching on foot when one of the searchers saw colored flagging that led him to a tent, and the missing hikers. Peckens and Hiser were cold and wet, but in fairly good condition with no injuries.

Foust said, “Weather conditions certainly played a role in this incident, both for the hikers and for the search personnel.” The hikers were challenged to travel, stay warm and dry, and to maintain a fire. The search operation was hampered by low visibility and cloud cover, mud, snow and very windy conditions. Many of the searchers were still in the backcountry today and had to hike out in miserable conditions; rain, sleet, hail, snow and wind.

Peckens and Hiser communicated their appreciation to the searchers and were ready to travel home with family and friends

Another Viewpoint: Ill Prepared Glacier Park Hikers owe their lives to rescue workers . . .  Tony Bynum asks why the NPS is depicting those who got lost as heroes.

Previous Stories

According to the NPS, the hikers were found uninjured on 10/15 around 3:30 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time and flown out of the park; more on 10/16.

from NPS Glacier National Park

Search efforts are underway in Glacier National Park for two hikers that have been reported missing. Family members reported them missing on Friday when the two men missed their flight from Montana to the East Coast and failed to return home.

It is believed that 32-year-old Neal Peckens from Virginia and 32-year-old Jason Hiser from Maryland departed from the North Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine on Tuesday, October 9. According to their backcountry permit, the men planned to camp at the Oldman Backcountry Campground on Tuesday night and return to Two Medicine on Wednesday, October 10.

Park rangers located the men’s vehicle late Friday, and initiated a search early this morning. An aerial search was conducted and six teams of search personnel hiked the area trails and conducted interviews with park visitors in the area. Weather was challenging for search personnel with windy conditions, low visibility, and rain and snow throughout the day. Additional search personnel from other organizations will be assisting on Sunday.

Peckens is six feet tall and approximately 180 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. Hiser is six feet tall and approximately 200 pounds with brown hair and green eyes. It is unknown what clothing the men are wearing and what equipment they have with them.

Anyone that may have any information or may have been in the area and seen individuals that may meet the descriptions are encouraged to contact the park at 888-7805.

10/14: Weather hampering search. Click on link for updated story.

10/15: 2 missing Glacier Park hikers are Virginia veterinarians

Note: Most hikers going to Oldman Lake begin the 10.2 km hike near the Two Medicine Campground and follow the Pitamakin Pass trail around Rising Wolf Mountain and continue on through Dry Fork Valley.

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4 responses

  1. I’ve not seen a lot of local news about this. I would not expect good things though from the sound of it. The weather in the higher places is not all that good at present, and especially for folks not used to hiking in it.

    • I’ve been in the area near the lake, and it’s nice country; the weather won’t help, especially if search by helo hasn’t turned up anything obvious. The fact that the car has been found at least confirms they were/are in the area.

      Malcolm

      • This time of year nature isn’t all that friendly or forgiving in the high country. When we had the snow locally last week I hiked only up to about 6500 feet and on that day the temperature was in the low 20’s with about a 10 knot wind and although I was prepared I would not have really enjoyed having to spend the night there. I’m sad to see people hurt or die doing what should be such an enjoyable thing.

        • I hope they started out with heavy clothing, tent, sleeping bag, matches, food, etc., so that if they were stranded some where they could keep warm. Your hike sounds fine:but lying outisde at those temps at night isn’t so good.

          Malcolm